007 questions about Bond vs. a young wizard

001. Can the James Bond ever be the No. 1 film series again? Harry Potter passed 007 some time back as the top-grossing film series worldwide. The gap currently is about $7.3 billion for the young wizard compared with $5.1 billion for the gentleman agent.

Ah, a 007 enthusiast may reply, Harry’s film career has ended with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. Agent 007 will make up the difference in no time.

002. Just what is “no time”? We’re talking years, at the very least the better part of a decade.

003. How can that be? Get out your calculator: There’s a $2.2 billion gap between 007 and Harry. The Bond series would have to average $500 million in box office receipts for four consecutive movies, starting with Bonbd 23, to catch the Potter series — and that’s if everybody stopped buying tickets to Deathly Hallows Part II this minute, all over the world.

004. But that’s possible, isn’t it? Certainly, but a $500 million gross isn’t common for a 007 movie. The Bond series never had a $500 million worldwide gross until 2006’s Casino Royale, still the series’ top-grossing entry at $596.4 million. Quantum of Solace grossed almost as much, $576.4 million.

005. Sounds doable, isn’t it? Sure, especially when you factor in rising ticket prices. Still, even if it happens, the *earliest* it could occur is 2018, assuming the Bond series can come out with an entry every other year beginning with Bond 23 in 2012.

006. What might prevent that? Remember, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that owns a half-interest in the 007 franchise, was in bankruptcy less than a year ago. Even before MGM’s bankruptcy, Bond producer Michael G. Wilson was again talking about how exhausted he was following Quantum and that there’d be at least a three-year break between films. It remains to be seen if Wilson and Eon Productions is up to producing a 007 movie every other year.

007. So what are you trying to say? Enjoy Bond 23, both when it starts filming later this year and in 2012 when it comes out. Don’t get hung up on being No. 2 worldwide (or No. 3 in the U.S. behind Potter and the Star Wars series). Also, don’t take 007 for granted. Bond films have been in hiatus more years than not since 1989 (1989-95, 2002-2006, 2008-present).

Thunderball’s 45th anniversary part I: Bondmania peaks

December is the 45th anniversary of the fourth James Bond film, Thunderball. In some ways, it’s a bittersweet anniversary for 007 fans. Bondmania hit its peak with Thunderball for the general public and it would never make it back to those levels.

Obviously the series has remained popular, generating 18 installments over the next 43 years. But it wouldn’t be the entertainment phenomenon it was in 1964 and 1965.

Thunderball grossed about $63.6 million in the U.S. Adjusted for inflaton, assuming an averge ticket price of $7.95, that translates to almost $595 million in 2010 dollars, according to information compiled by Box Office Mojo Website. On the adjusted gross basis, Thunderball is No. 27 all time and outranks Spider-Man, some (but not all) of the Star Wars series, Forrest Gump and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King among others.

Again, the Box Office Mojo list is U.S.only. Thunderball had a worldwide gross of $141.2 million, according to a list of unadjusted grosses compiled by Numbers.com Assuming a similar adjustment for 2010 (as in the Box Office Mojo U.S. list), you’re looking at an adjusted gross of more than $1 billion for Thunderball.

However, on the adjusted U.S. list, the only other 007 film is 1964’s Goldfinger at No. 41 ($51 million actual U.S. gross, $527 million adjusted for 2010 dollars). In the bottom 10 of the adjusted list, you’ll see the likes of Seargeant York, House of Wax and Toy Story 2. You won’t find Quantum of Solace, the most recent 007 film that had the highest actual U.S. gross in the Bond series of $169.4 million.

Bond, of course, is popular outside of the U.S. Still, if you assume Thunderball has an adjusted gross of $1 billion or better worldwide, then the top unadjusted worldwide grossing Bond film — 2006’s Casino Royale at $596.4 million — isn’t nearly as popuar as the 1965 film was.

Earlier this year, on message boards of Bond fan Web sites, fans argued that adjusted grosses were the true measure of Bond’s popularity. This came in response to stories LIKE THIS ONE that the Harry Potter series had passed 007 in total unadjusted grosses.

But if adjusted is the real standard, then Bond’s *biggest* days are behind him. That doesn’t mean that 007 isn’t popular. And yes, comparing financial performance of movies from different eras is actually more complicated because there are more revenue sources now than in previous decades. Still, it doesn’t change the fact the Thunderball anniversary is also the anniversary of an end of an era, an era that seems unlikely to return.

007’s double-edged sword: box office receipts vs. tickets sold

The news that Harry Potter has passed James Bond for the most successful movies series, can stir reactions from Bond fans (including HMSS’s own staff) that such a comparison is unfair. The notion is that if you go by number of tickets sold, that’s a much fairer comparison that using unadjusted box-office gross.

If you look at the unadjusted figures, the highest grossing 007 film is 2006’s Casino Royale with more than $596 million worldwide. In terms of U.S. gross, the No. 1 Bond film is 2008’s Quantum of Solace, according to by http://www.by-thenumbers.com, with more than $169 million out of a worldwide gross of $576 million.

However, there are lists that based what grosses would be if you adjusted for inflation of ticket prices. According to a list compiled at the Box Office Mojo Web site, Thunderball’s $63.6 million U.S. gross alone would be equal to almost $595 million. There have been other estimates that Thunderball’s worldwide gross would equal about $1 billion today.

Others say not so fast. The Hot Blog, in a January posting argued the “ticket sold” argument isn’t the strongest, that studios don’t care about the number of tickets sold, just about revenue, that they’re trying to find new ways (and with 3D a revamped old one) of generating more revenue and that it’s hard to compare movies of different eras. A sampling:

But the adjusted grossers would have you believe that properly read, Thunderball would have grossed more than The Dark Knight last year and would be fighting Avatar for the #2 slot al-time worldwide now at more than $1.2 billion, as Bond always plays great in the international market.

Bond is a very valuable franchise. But the best it has ever grossed with one film is still under $600 million worldwide. I’m not saying that $64 million for Thunderball in 1965 wasn’t extraordinary. But was it of significance like a billion dollar-plus movie is now?

Here’s something else that the Hot Blog post doesn’t mention. If you embrace the tickets sold/adjusted for inflation argument, it’s doubtful any new Bond movie would ever surpass Thunderball,. Or put another way, the series’ best financial days are behind it. Based on Box Office Mojo’s estimates, Thunderball‘s grosses were more than 15 times its $9 million production cost. Quantum of Solace, the most recent 007 film? About two-and-a-half times, thanks in part to an estimated production budget of $230 million.

No matter which side one takes, it’s a double-edged sword for 007, and a debate whose answers are murky.

Harry Potter takes No. 1 series title from 007

Over at the Yahoo! Movies site, there’s the news that the boy wizard has beaten out the gentlemen agent with a license to kill for top-grossing movie series title.

The most successful movie franchise of all time is the “Harry Potter” series, which recently edged out another famous Brit: James Bond.

According to Box Office Mojo, the first six adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s beloved books have earned a staggering $5.4 billion worldwide, not adjusted for inflation.

The 22 films considered part of the official Bond canon (the 1967 spoof “Casino Royale” and the 1983 out-of-continuity “Never Say Never Again” don’t count) have earned an estimated $5 billion globally. But even if the earnings of those two films were included, it still wouldn’t be enough to put 007 on top.

You can read the entire story BY CLICKING HERE. These figures don’t adjust for inflation. But the article also points out there are still Potter films in the pipeline while the 007 series is on hiatus because of the financial uncertainty at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.